Ex-Facebook security boss Alex Stamos says the company is like 'Game of Thrones' at the highest levels of leadership

Win McNamee/Getty ImagesAlex Stamos.
  • Former Facebook exec Alex Stamos says the leadership culture at the company is like “Game of Thrones.”
  • In an interview with CNN, the outspoken security pro said it could be difficult for Facebook execs to admit when they were wrong.
  • Stamos reportedly clashed with others on the leadership team, including COO Sheryl Sandberg, while at the Silicon Valley firm.

A former Facebook exec has likened the culture in the senior ranks of the company to “Game of Thrones.”

Speaking to CNN’s Laurie Segall in an interview aired on Sunday, ex-Facebook security boss Alex Stamos said the machinations at the higher levels of the Silicon Valley social networking giant reminded him of the HBO show, which is notorious for its political intrigue and backstabbing.

The leadership team can be reluctant to admit fault, he said, because of how long most of its top leaders have been at the company.

“The truth is there is a bit of a Game of Thrones culture – among the executives,” he said. “One of the problems about having a really tight-knit set of people making all these decisions … if you keep the – the same people in the same places, it’s just very difficult to admit you were wrong, right?”

Stamos, an outspoken and respected figure in the security industry, served as Facebook chief security officer between 2015 and 2018. During this time he reportedly clashed with COO Sheryl Sandberg – including an episode where he briefed the company board about Russian intelligence operations on the social network without warning her in advance, effectively blindsiding her. He now works as a professor at Stanford University.

His metaphor has been thrown around before.

In November 2018, an anonymous former Facebook exec described company culture – and the difference between the rank-and-file experiences and leadership – to The New York Times like so: “Below me was Care Bears, and above me was ‘Game of Thrones,’ … You couldn’t get to the top in Silicon Valley when Sheryl [Sandberg] did by being a nice person.” It’s possible, however, that this unnamed former exec was in fact Stamos himself.

Stamos also drew similarities to Westerosi court intrigue in an interview with Yahoo Finance published Friday, saying he misplayed the “Game-of-Thrones-y stuff” while at the company.

Stamos also said that the ultimate responsibility for some of Facebook’s issues lie with Mark Zuckerberg as CEO.

“In the end, the real root responsibility for why these things happened was not in Sheryl’s control,” he told CNN. “Facebook wasn’t measuring the bigger impact and thinking about the ways people could twist it to be misused. And in the end, that is Mark’s responsibility.”

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